One of the greats of American theater, Elaine Stritch, is dead at age 89. Ms Stritch passed away at her home in suburban Michigan where she retired last year after decades of living in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.
Primarily a Broadway name for much of her career, actress/singer Elaine Stritch secured her position as a star with frequent television appearances that exposed he acerbic wit and charm to new generations of fans, primarily through her Emmy Award winning work on “30 Rock”as Alec Baldwin’s problematic mother. She also earned star status in the UK, onstage in the West End and with a successful sitcom.
But, it was her six decades of stage work that established her professional career, and primarily her work interpreting the songs of Stephen Sondheim. From the NY Times:
One of Ms. Stritch’s most memorable appearances was in the Sondheim musical “Company” (1970), in which, as a cynical society woman, she saluted her peers with the vodka-soaked anthem “The Ladies Who Lunch.” It not only brought her another Tony nomination but became her signature tune — at least until, in her 70s, she became equally known for Sondheim’s paean to showbiz longevity and survival, “I’m Still Here.” It was the centerpiece of her 2001 one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” and she sang it in 2010 at Mr. Sondheim’s 80th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center…
“Elaine Stritch at Liberty” finally won the actress a much coveted Tony Award but she protested bitterly when her long, rambling acceptance was cut short by the show’s producers. But, Ms Stritch never shied away from speaking her mind, whether it was onstage, or on a talk show, or to a reporter. She was always good for a “tart tongued” quote.
That tartness, at times, could be attributed to Stritch’s decades long affair with booze, cigarettes and a Party Girl lifestyle that frequently led to some poor decisions that cost her jobs. The actress was considered for the “Dorothy” role on “The Golden Girls” but botched the audition after insisting on lacing her performance with profanities despite being directed to specifically not do so; Beatrice Arthur won the iconic role.
Stritch on drinking, via the NY Times:
“I’m not a bit opposed to your mentioning in this article that Frieda Fun here has had a reputation in the theater, for the past five or six years, for drinking,” she said to a reporter for The New York Times in 1968. “I drink and I love to drink, and it’s part of my life.”
In later years, Ms Stritch seemed to have her act together as she became a beloved theater institution and a familiar face on tv in “30 Rock” and an Emmy Award winning guest turn on “Law & Order”. Last year’s documentary, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” directed by Chiemi Karasawa, also earned her new fans.
The actress also won accolades for interpreting the writing of other gay playwrights. Ms Stitch won raves for her work as Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and a Tony nomination for her work in the 1996 revival of the playwright’s “A Delicate Balance”. She earned another Tony nomination for her work in William Inge’s “Bus Stop” in 1955. Other Tony nominations were received for her work in Noel Coward’s “Sail Away” and her iconic role in Sondheim’s “Company”.
Sadly, she’s no longer physically “still here” but she’ll be long remembered.
A toast to our favorite Lady Who Lunched…Elaine Stritch.